House Republicans on Friday promised that members would consider a range of legislative proposals later this month in response to the kidnapping of hundreds of girls in Nigeria.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said on the House floor that he welcomed some of the initial steps taken by the Obama administration to help Nigerian officials locate the 276 missing girls and stop them from begin sold by Boko Haram, an Islamist group operating in the country.
The legislative effort comes amid criticism that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton actively worked to ensure that Boko Haram was not listed as a terrorist entity.
However, none of the bills the House will consider later this month deal with the State Department’s failure to address the issue. Instead, they are aimed at dealing directly with the problem of trying to reduce the incidence of human trafficking, both in the United States and abroad.
But Cantor did say the incident shows the U.S. needs to be more on guard for the rise of these extremist groups, and called on the administration to work with Congress on the issue.
“It is also important to note that the underlying threat posed by extremist groups in Nigeria and throughout the region is growing,” he said. “Whether it is Boko Haram, Ansar al-Sharia, Hezbollah, Hamas or Al Qaeda, it is critical that we in the House work with the administration to confront the growing threat these violent extremists pose to international peace, security and the protection of innocent lives.
“In the coming days as we focus on finding and returning these girls to their homes. May God watch over them and those seeking their return.”
According to Cantor, one bill the House will consider soon is from House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.), which would target human traffickers who try to use the U.S. visa system to bring victims to the United States, where they can be forced into slave labor.
Another from Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) would require increased coordination between the U.S. and other countries when sex offenders travel internationally.
Several others are aimed at boosting efforts to prevent human trafficking in the United States. A bill from Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) is a comprehensive bill meant to boost aid for rescuing victims and finding and prosecuting human traffickers.
Rep. Eric Paulsen (R-Minn.) has proposed language giving states new incentives to boost public services for trafficking victims, and Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) has a bill to prevent sex trafficking of foster care youth. Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) has a bill aimed at closing down groups that host ads for people involved in human trafficking.
Finally, members will consider a non-binding resolution on Nigeria that the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved today. The resolution condemns the kidnapping and Boko Haram, and encourages further U.S. work with Nigeria to find the girls.
Royce said Friday that Nigeria often refuses U.S. aid, and that the U.S. needs to keep up pressure on that government to accept U.S. help.
“We should be pushing on the Nigerian government to accept as much help as they can – to save these young women now, and to eliminate the Boko Haram threat soon,” he said. “This resolution is a part of that push.”
The House’s legislative effort, however, will have to wait until the week of May 19, as the House left Friday for a week-long recess. Before leaving Friday, members held a moment of silence for the Nigerian girls.